AWE, WONDER, & whatever

Awe - n. - A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might: We felt awe when contemplating the works of Bach. The observers were in awe of the destructive power of the new weapon.

won_der [wuhn-der] – n. – The emotion excited by what is strange and surprising; a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, sometimes tinged with admiration: He felt wonder at seeing the Grand Canyon.

-- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Something is sorely lacking in our culture today, and has all but vanished in the church.It is a sense of awe. As a high school teacher, I see it every day in the glazed-over look in the eyes of teenagers. They glisten like the hair of a politician or televangelist. They sit lifeless in their chairs, living out Thoreau’s quote about quiet desperation. Quiet because they either don’t want to be noticed, or they don’t have much to say because they don’t think much of anything anymore, or because talking isn’t part of the routine. Desperate because, with the utterance of a word, their teacher can ruin their afternoon, their weekend, their month by causing them to forfeit their plans of soaking in all the distractions an information-age culture has to offer them. This is why teachers are the enemy. They might have students channel that ability to ride the waves of the oft-cited superhighway for ends other than entertainment, which is the only thing that carries their interest anymore.

These are the children that grow up never having satisfied a primal urge all humans have: to be a part of something that is bigger than their own selves. How can they? They don’t even know who they are.

There is nothing anymore that seems to inspire in us a sense of this mixed emotion we call awe. Some have wondered if we’re capable of any true emotion at all anymore. I believe all of this to be one of the greatest tragedies of our time. In this we are not only losing something that is distinctly human, and, thus, a key element to our identity, but we are also losing a part of our make-up that provides a direct path to God. Consider what one biographer of Martin Luther says. Roland Bainton, author of Here I Stand, characterizes Martin Luther’s ideas on the subject this way: “The deficiency of faith is made evident by a lack of wonder, for nature is a revelation only to those to whom God has already been revealed.” He quotes Luther as saying, “If thou couldst understand a single grain of wheat, thou wouldst die for wonder.” We, on the other hand, have taken to behold the truly wondrous “like a cow staring at a new door.”

I fear something terrible has happened.

thanks to Jimmy Doyle

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